Several Middle Grade books were languishing without reviews when I last checked. To my surprise, one of those I read in the spring, and gave five stars to it. I wonder how that happened. The first two of these were Books of the Month for the Goodreads Great Middle Grade Reads Group. The other three have been on my TBR list for what seems like centuries; I think they were all freebies in my early days on Goodreads.
Five great Middle Grade reads
by Helen Laycock
This is a really well-written and edited book from a prolific indie author. Two girls meet on their way to a school in the depths of the Scottish Highlands, one sent there by a guardian after her parents died. They arrive in the middle of nowhere, with nobody to meet them, and embark on a trek in the night to find the school.
I enjoyed the book, which is well paced, with good descriptions and some interesting twists. I thoroughly enjoyed the plot, which others criticised, but it’s a great concept and I’m encouraged to read more of Helen Laycock’s work.
by Grace Lin
A small girl follows legends and poems that seem to call her to her destiny.
I remember the feel of this book more than the story. It was certainly charming, and felt original to me, although some others pointed out books on a similar theme. As it’s set in Japan, it gave me a sense of wonder and strangeness, so maybe I accepted the magic more easily than in other books. I gave it five stars, but I can’t remember what impressed me so much now!
by Teddy Jacobs
This was a collection of the first two books in the series. A boy, one we can imagine is a prince or suchlike, is locked in his room every night to do his studying, when he would much rather be practising with his wooden sword. He keeps having nightmares, so he’s short of sleep too. He has a strange experience when he sees things through his wall… and eventually discovers he has a magic touch. The people he meets through the hole in his wall turn out to be one friend, and one foe. He sets off with the friend into an excellent quest.
The dragons turn up in book 2.
This is an excellent story. The problem is there is no book 3, and it’s definitely my definition of a serial, rather than a series. Even more mysteriously, Teddy Jacobs appears to be a penname of someone who has decided to go no further. There is a suspect for this, who is writing books for YA now, rather than MG, and I base this purely on the fact he has all Teddy Jacobs books listed as read (5 stars), and the covers for his YA books bear a distinct similarity to the single volume cover for one of the Return of the Dragons books. All this turned up because I was desperate to find the third in the series, after 6 years of having the free ebook in my Kindle. I wonder if the author is suffering from the ‘I don’t want the series to end’ syndrome, so he can’t bring himself to write the last one. I know that feeling.
So if Hugh Howey reads this… please get Teddy Jacobs to finish this Middle Grade series!
by Cheryl Carpinello
I apologise to Cheryl for having taken so long to get around to Guinevere. This is the first of several Guinevere stories she has written now, all very suitable for Middle Grade, and showing how a girl can grow up and become a queen. It’s the eve of Guinevere’s birthday, when she has to stop being a tomboy and become the lady of the castle – and meet old men four years older than her who are looking for wives. Although, actually, he’s quite nice…
Cheryl is also winning awards for Guinevere: At the Dawn of Legend, which is the follow-up to this one. There’s a short Guinevere story in the second BookElves Anthology, so if you need a taster, try that (ebook is free at least between late October and Jan 1st each year). Guinevere: on the Eve of Legend is excellent. I must buy the next one.
by Vickie Johnstone
Another freebie that’s been on my kindle for years – and what a treat! It’s also a series of adventures for Kiwi, a cat who discovers there is a whole underworld of cats, in a different time frame from the one she lives in with her human family. And boy, is that otherworld brilliant. Gangsters, double-dealing, business deals, and crime investigations! It’s fast, pacy, ingenious, with brilliant characterisations, all suitable for Middle Grade readers, and I must get some more of them!